Sick photography: representations of sickness in art photography

Maija Tammi

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


This artistic research scrutinises how sickness has been represented in art photography and examines new ways to approach, think about and create photographic art about sickness. The dissertation combines theoretical research and artworks. The theoretical part shows that while scholars have concentrated on the ethics of what kind of images of sickness or suffering ought to be shown or on the psychology of why some images of sickness bother viewers, most art photographers have concentrated on depicting personal illness experiences. The research applies anthropologist Arthur Kleinman’s definitions of sickness, illness and disease in a diagram to examine how photographic artworks approach the topic. To understand the functions and the meanings of the different approaches, the research draws especially from Julia Kristeva’s writings on the abject. The main results of the research, artworks Leftover and White Rabbit Fever, are intertwined with the theoretical part. Leftover was exhibited at Photographic Gallery Hippolyte in Helsinki in January 2014, and White Rabbit Fever at Gallery Lapinlahti in Helsinki in September 2016. Both bodies of work have also been published as books: Leftover/Removals by Kehrer Verlag in 2014, and White Rabbit Fever by Bromide Books in 2017.
Translated title of the contributionSick photography : representations of sickness in art photography
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Salo, Merja, Supervising Professor
  • Honkasalo, Marja-Liisa, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7606-5
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7605-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • sickness
  • disease
  • illness
  • art photography
  • abject
  • Kristeva
  • Kleinman

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